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Notes: Rodgers gets 2 hits; leave for Owings

@harding_at_mlb
March 5, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Thursday afternoon might have been more starting gun than baby step for Rockies infielder Brendan Rodgers. In his first Cactus League action since he had right shoulder labrum surgery on July 16, Rodgers went 2-for-3 as the designated hitter in a 7-6 split-squad loss to the White

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Thursday afternoon might have been more starting gun than baby step for Rockies infielder Brendan Rodgers.

In his first Cactus League action since he had right shoulder labrum surgery on July 16, Rodgers went 2-for-3 as the designated hitter in a 7-6 split-squad loss to the White Sox at Glendale, Ariz.

The Rockies thought Rodgers, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the organization's top prospect, would be able to serve as a DH toward the end of the spring and not be on the Major League radar until May, which meant he was ticketed for the 60-day injured list. But Rodgers, 23, the No. 29 overall prospect, pushed himself in the offseason and kept exceeding the club’s pace.

“It’s getting to the point where things are going in the right direction, with the right momentum, a lot of confidence in his shoulder, in his swing, what he’s doing on the field with defense,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “A lot of arrows are pointing up.”

Rodgers is pushing to play defense in a game, at second base and then at shortstop, and make himself a factor in Opening Day roster decisions.

Special times

Utility man Chris Owings had a second-inning double off the top of the wall against Brad Keller in the Rockies’ other split-squad game, a 9-1 victory over the Royals at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. That was Owings’ seventh hit in three games, as he makes his case to make the squad after signing as a veteran non-roster invitee.

Owings, who has seen big league time with the D-backs, Royals and Red Sox, will step away for a few days to travel to Charlottesville, Va., as he and his wife await the birth of their first child, Black said.

Owings and Garrett Hampson could give the Rockies two players who can line up at shortstop and center field.

Does the slider ever have to return?
A day after righty Jeff Hoffman didn’t throw his slider, and had two scoreless innings against the Rangers, Black said it may not be a necessary pitch.

Hoffman, the key prospect in the Troy Tulowitzki trade with the Blue Jays in 2015, is out of Minor League options and in a tight competition for the fifth rotation spot.

“With Jeff it’s a matter of getting the ball in the strike zone in good spots. He’s got enough fastball,” Black said. “He’s got a great curveball, and he’s got a developing changeup, which I think is quality, too. It’s all there.”

If Hoffman doesn’t make the rotation, the Rockies would have to decide whether to keep him in long relief, gauge trade interest or risk losing him via waivers.

Now it can start
Much like Hoffman, fifth spot hopeful Chi Chi González struggled in his early spring outings but now can build on a good recent game. On Thursday, González mixed all his pitches, throw a more deceptive slider than before, and went three scoreless innings with three hits, a double-play grounder (against Jorge Soler in the first) and three strikeouts against the Royals.

“Last outing, I got strikeout opportunities but I was just burying [the slider] almost in front of home, so it was a ball right out of my hand,” the right-hander said. “Today, I attacked behind home plate, and every strikeout I had, Tony [Wolters] caught it down in the zone.”

Hoffman and Gonzalez are competing with Ubaldo Jiménez, Peter Lambert (four hits, two walks, two runs in two innings vs. the White Sox) and Wes Parsons (four hits, four runs in 1 2/3 inning vs. the White Sox).

Fences cleared
Against the White Sox, Ian Desmond, Drew Butera, David Dahl and Sam Hilliard hit home runs. Against the Royals, Nolan Arenado and Wolters homered.

Health updates
• Lefty starter Kyle Freeland, who left his first spring start Feb. 27 with back tightness, should return to Cactus League play Sunday against the Indians.

• Lefty reliever Ben Bowden, the Rockies’ No. 10 prospect hasn’t pitched this spring because of lower back soreness and will miss at least a month, Black said.

• Righty Tim Melville, who hasn’t participated in Spring Training because of a rib injury, said he will receive a new scan “in a few weeks” to monitor healing.

• Shortstop Eric Stamets, hit in the face by a bad hop on Wednesday, took five stitches but should be back in action soon, Black said.

• Righty Carlos Estévez struggled in his first two outings but had his second straight clean one Thursday against the Royals. Estévez said he is a yearly allergy sufferer but has recovered. He mixed his fastball and slider with a developing changeup against the Royals.

Up next
Righty German Márquez is scheduled for six innings on Friday when the Rockies meet the D-backs at 1:10 p.m. MT at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Whether it’s during the game, or in the bullpen after he leaves, Márquez will build his pitch count.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.